Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Ancient DNA reveals how cats domesticated humans

June 20, 2017

by Chuck Bednar

While dogs are believed to be the first animal to be domesticated, cats – as one might expect from a feline – took their sweet time trying to decide whether or not they wanted to bond with humans, according to a new, comprehensive genetic analysis published this week.

The authors of the study, which appeared in the journal Nature Ecology & Evolution, looked at the DNA of around 200 feline species representing more than 9,000 years, including mummified Egyptian cats and modern-day African wildcats, National Geographic reported on Monday. Based on that analysis, the researchers concluded that felines lived alongside humans for several thousand years before actually becoming domesticated, and that the earliest ancestors of today’s housecats came to Europe from southwest Asia as early as 4400 BC, the publication added.

Lead author Claudio Ottoni, a paleogeneticist from the University of Leuven, and his colleagues analyzed DNA from the bones, teeth, skin and hair of 100 to 9,000-year-old felines discovered at archeological sites in Western Asia, Europe and Africa. They found that all modern-day cats can be traced back genetically to the African wildcat (Felis silvestris lybica), a subspecies of wildcat found in North Africa and the Near East, according to a press release.


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